Importance of Accreditation

Not all schools are accredited equally

A vocational school that advertises accreditation is offering prospective students assurance they'll be receiving a quality education. In most countries the accrediting of educational institutions is the responsibility of a government education ministry. In the U.S. accreditation can be given by any number of private nonprofit membership associations. This makes it the responsibility of prospective students to make sure that the accrediting body is indeed reputable.

Career colleges and trade and technical schools earn accreditation by meeting certain criteria relating to the quality of their education. Accreditation that is recognized by the government or a specific industry is important because without it graduates may not be able to apply to the jobs they want or have their credits acknowledged when attempting to upgrade their education. There are two different kids of accreditation: institutional and specialized.

Institutional and specialized accreditation

If the entire school meets educational standards it can receive institutional accreditation. Specialized accreditation is given only to individual programs that have been deemed to meet industry standards. Employers rely on trusted accreditation associations as proof graduates have gained the proper training.

National accreditation

Accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) are known as national accreditors. National accreditors are recognized as reliable authorities to determine the quality of training a school provides.

If a school wants to be eligible for federal student financial aid they must have national accreditation. Some national trade school accreditors include the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT), the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training and the Council on Occupational Education. National accreditation isn't generally considered to be as good as regional. Check with associations in the industry you'll be entering to see if the accreditation is recognized. As well, check with any schools you might be attending in the future to see if credits will be accepted for transfer.

Regional accreditation

There are six regional accreditors recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the USDE. While no accreditation can guarantee a job or the potential for credit transfer, regional accreditation is widely thought to offer the best chances for both. If a school claims regional accreditation you can verify their status by looking up the regional association for the state the school is located in. Unsavory institutions known as degree mills will advertise bogus accreditation, sometimes going so far as creating their own association with a name similar to that of a reputable one.

Regional accrediting associations

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

Trade School World's directories list numerous accredited trade schools.